FKNK VP Lino Farrugia refuses to give information regarding revocation of memberships
“I decide if I give you the information you are requesting,” FKNK Vice-President Lino Farrugia said when asked by The Malta Independent regarding the number of memberships that have been revoked from hunters who engage in illegal hunting activities. Mr Farrugia said that he, “will give [the information] to you if I want to”.
This newsroom asked FKNK after in 2015’s autumn hunting season alone there had been 131 offences according to a report by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit; 102 of which have involved illegal trapping activities, two having involved the trapping of protected birds, one being the hunting of protected birds, five being the possession of protected birds. When contacted about the volume of offences, Mr Farrugia insisted that a majority of them have been “petty” crimes.
This runs contrary to the FKNK’s pre-referendum statement given to the Committee Against Bird Slaughter in which the organisation publically condemned “any breaches of hunting and trapping regulations” stressing that “it will increase its pressure to fulfil its policy of zero tolerance with whoever may be apprehended and found guilty by the Court of Law.”
A FKNK statement on 16 September of this year reads that “Without FKNK membership a trapping licence is not possible." In the same statement the FKNK echoed the sentiment that the organisation will “immediately revoke the membership of any FKNK trapper member who may be found guilty in court of illegal trapping activities”.
However when asked about yesterday’s case against Sunny Camilleri who admitted to being guilty of trapping a protected species, Lino Farrugia said that he “did not know” of the judgement and he will see which course of action to take.
The statement followed concerns after at least 23 protected birds had been shot in this year’s autumn season. According to government statements following these events, it is the Ornis Committee, whose chairman is Prof. Mark Anthony Falzon, which has the power to suspend the hunting season, despite the fact that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has suspended the hunting season twice without a formal recommendation by the Ornis Committee. Prof. Falzon has since avoided any attempts this newspaper has made to contact him for a comment on the current situation.
This newsroom also contacted BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana where he also expressed concern that the organisation does not stick to its supposed zero-tolerance policy.
Mr Sultana also spoke of the lack of presence of the Administrative Law Enforcement in Gozo. ALE is the unit that monitors hunting and trapping in Malta, however according to Mr Sultana it appears that in Gozo the local police force is conducting these duties, acting as the enforcers and investigators of the legislation.
He stressed that he was not criticising the work of ordinary policemen, instead he was questioning why the relevant authorities, who have the proper experience in dealing with these investigations were not able to act on the island.
This he believes will lead to a number of procedural errors during the investigations and would often lead to a lack of evidence as was seen in yesterday morning’s acquittal of Alex Debrincat and Derek Francis Xuereb.
The lack of presence from the ALE in Gozo is a longstanding issue with CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows saying in 2015 that “that many Maltese trappers go to Gozo to trap, since there is no ALE there.”
Mr Sultana also spoke of the government’s inability to act on the field of taxidermy. He believes removal of criminal procedures against the craft equates to the promotion of the killing and stuffing of birds and animals.
This echoes sentiments showed in January of this year when Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes made an appearance at a taxidermy event besides David Falzon and Mark Buhagiar, two officials of the Malta Taxidermy Foundation who were found guilty in court for being in possession of protected birds.
The event which was hosted by FKNK featured falcon displays, and a taxidermy competition for the mounting of turtle dove and quail – the two bird species which can be hunted in Malta’s spring hunting season. At the time a BirdLife statement had read: “It is deplorable that the person given the remit to safeguard animal rights has gone so far as to promote taxidermy, an act considered despicable throughout the world.”
Many Maltese trappers go to Gozo to trap, since there is no ALE there